Listen as President Lyndon Johnson talks about the turbulent events in the first four months of 1968

May 01, 2008

Audio recordings of the telephone conversations will be released on May 1, 2008, at 9 a.m. (Central.) At that time, archivists will be available for interviews.

What: Release of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone conversations from
January through April 1968.
When: 9 a.m., Thursday, May 1, 2008
Where: LBJ Library, 10th floor, Reading Room
2313 Red River St.
Contact: Anne Wheeler, Communications Director
(O) 721-0216 (Cell) 731-2351 anne.wheeler@nara.gov

(Austin) - 1968 was arguably one of the most turbulent years in modern American history, and this last full year of Lyndon Johnson's presidency is documented in fascinating detail in the recordings of these telephone conversations.

Topics discussed in these conversations include:

  • Seizure of a US intelligence ship, the Pueblo
  • Tet Offensive
  • New Hampshire Democratic primary & the presidential campaign
  • Senator Robert F. Kennedy's entry into the presidential race
  • President Johnson's decision not to run for re-election
  • Murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the unrest that followed

The year begins with the President facing an increasingly hostile response to his domestic and foreign policies from elected officials as well as the American public. The singer Eartha Kitt incites controversy when she publicly criticizes the President's policies at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson.

Later in the month of January, the President faces a rapid series of crises: the crash of an American airplane carrying nuclear weapons in Greenland; the seizure of a US intelligence ship, the Pueblo, and its crew by North Korea; and the widespread North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attacks of the Tet Offensive, including an attack on the US Embassy in Saigon and the siege of the US outpost in Khe Sanh. An international monetary crisis and concerns about inflation threaten the national economy, and Congress considers a major tax increase and spending cuts to ameliorate economic woes.

But above all, in this, an election year, there is talk of politics. Senator Eugene McCarthy challenges the President in the New Hampshire primary, and after his surprisingly strong showing, Senator Robert Kennedy enters the race as well, calling for a re-evaluation of Vietnam policy. Throughout these months, the President considers his own election campaign with advisors and influential politicians, especially Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago. Then, on March 31, the President surprises the world by calling for a major new peace initiative in Vietnam and withdrawing from the presidential race. Just a few days later, Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and Washington, DC, and other US cities are engulfed in rioting.

There are approximately 13 hours of recorded conversations from January through April 1968: 2 hours for January, 3 hours for February, 6 hours for March, and 2 hours for April. In addition, there are transcripts of 18 conversations that were not recorded. Detailed information about individual conversations and a list of "Highlights" will be available in the Library's Reading Room and on the Library's web site (www.lbjlib.utexas.edu) on May 1.

Researchers may either listen to the recordings in the Reading Room beginning on May 1 or purchase copies of individual compact discs at a cost of $8.00 per disc, plus shipping and handling. The cost of the set of 14 discs is $112.00 plus shipping, handling, and Texas sales tax where applicable. We will also provide a set of copies of those transcripts of conversations that were not recorded free of charge to anyone who orders the complete set of discs. Orders for complete sets must be placed with the Reading Room Archivist, 512-721-0212, by Tuesday, April 29.

Once the limited number of available sets has been sold, orders will be filled once a week as staff time permits. Orders for individual discs will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis after May 1.

Copies of individual transcripts of those conversations that were transcribed by the President's staff may also be purchased at a cost of $ 0.30 per page by mail or $ 0.20 per page if ordered in the Reading Room. Additionally, complete sets of the transcripts may be purchased for $.20 per page regardless of where they are ordered. The exact page count of a complete set of transcripts will be available on May 1. Researchers should be cautioned that the transcripts are not always reliable and should not be used without checking them against the actual recordings to assure accuracy.